Tamburo v. Dworkin, No. 04 C 3317, 2007 WL 3046216 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 9, 2007) (Gottschall, J.).
Judge Gottschall granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs sell a dog breeding and pedigree software program and sought, among other things, a declaratory judgment that certain allegedly factual information (date of birth, gender, parent’s names, titles, color, medical information, etc.) included in its pedigree database was not copyrightable and, therefore, could not be infringed by plaintiffs. Defendants either offer allegedly competing software or are dog breeders who use such software. The Court held that it lacked general or specific jurisdiction over each of the defendants. There was no general jurisdiction because plaintiffs identified, at most, minimal interactions with and sales to Illinois residents. And defendants various websites were not sufficiently targeted to Illinois to alone create general jurisdiction. The Court similarly found that it lacked specific jurisdiction. Of particular interest, the Court held that defendants’ posts to internet chat groups and message boards could not create specific jurisdictions. The posts allegedly accused plaintiffs of theft and trafficking in stolen goods, among other things. The Court held that, while the Seventh Circuit had not addressed the issue or expressly adopted the Zippo sliding scale analysis, posts to internet chat rooms and message boards would fall below passive websites, which make up the bottom of the Zippo scale. Defendants are not alleged to own the chat rooms or to use them to transact or target business within Illinois. The Court reasoned that a holding that specific jurisdiction was created by postings to chat rooms would make jurisdiction boundless because the chat rooms have no geographic restrictions.